The euphoria the Nets experienced on June 30 when top-tier free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant agreed to take their talents to Brooklyn has given way to the reality that they are a team in transition. It's a team still is learning how to work together with a superstar point guard while integrating a new cast of veterans with their youthful core.
That much was evident Wednesday night at Barclays Center when the previously winless Pacers came in and took control in the third period before pulling away in the fourth quarter to lead by as many as 16 points on their way to a 118-108 victory over the Nets. It won’t get easier Friday night when James Harden and Russell Westbrook of the Rockets bring their act to town.
The Pacers (1-3) had four players with at least 20 points, including Domantis Sabonis (29), Jeremy Lamb (25), Malcolm Brogdon (21 and 13 assists) and T.J. Warren (20). They took control with their physicality during a 19-6 third-quarter run that gave them a 10-point lead, and after the Nets pulled within four early in the final period, the Pacers pulled away with a 22-8 run for their highest lead at 112-96.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson noted his team had 20 turnovers leading to 28 points, contributing to the dysfunction on offense. “We’ve really got to get to know each other better,” Atkinson said. “We’re not really running anything. In training camp, you’re practicing a lot and you have a nice flow, you kind of know what you’re doing. I think we’ve lost a little bit of our structure and organization, which is natural with a new team and new guys.”
While Irving and guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert all create for themselves, they still are trying to figure out how to meld their individual talents.
Irving topped the Nets (1-3) with another stellar line of 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Dinwiddie added 20 points and seven assists, and LeVert had 15 points. But the Nets shot only 32.3 percent from three-point range (10 of 31).
“I don’t think anyone is selfish or trying to do it themselves,” Atkinson said of his trio of guards. Right now, we’re not on the same page . . . I’m not worried. We have great offensive players.”
Irving echoed Atkinson’s thought on the importance of time together to build chemistry. The playing rotation against the Pacers included five vets who weren’t with the Nets last season.
“It’s going to take some time just to know where everyone is,” said Irving, who has scored 141 points in four games, the highest-scoring four-game stretch of his career.
“We can’t really force it. There’s a huge amount of respect we have for one another for what they’ve done and for what I’ve done. We just have to figure out how to play off one another and get each other easy baskets without being so ball-dominant, coming off the pick-and-roll. That’s just playing the nuances of the game and playing off your teammate.”
The Nets’ defensive struggles continued as they once again got torched from three-point range. The Pacers made 11 of 26 threes (42.3 percent), becoming the third straight team to hit at least 40 percent from three-point range.
Again, Irving said it’s a matter of the new guys on the block learning the intricacies of the Nets’ defensive system. “They’ve had a system the last few years, and now we have to adjust to the players who are here,” Irving said. “It’s going to take some time, but I’m excited to go through practice with them every single day.”